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A Mizzou recruiting refresher on the eve of the early signing period

College football is testing an early signing period, and it begins tomorrow. Here’s what Mizzou fans can expect.

Oscar Gambler

The NCAA has made some changes to the recruiting calendar, and we’ll most directly feel its effects tomorrow. There is still a National Signing Day in early February, but most teams are going to sign a majority of their respective classes in December’s early signing period.

1. Missouri expects to sign most of its current commits

The fax machines will fire up on Wednesday morning, and while we didn’t know exactly how this would all play out a few months ago, it appears that, to coaches, December is the new February.

The principle guiding the common strategy of the schools is to maximize the leverage given to them by NCAA rules.

So here is how the vast majority of college teams will attack early signing day.

“With few exceptions, we expect to sign every verbal commitment we have. This is [now] the main Signing Day.”

If a player has been offered and has verbally committed to the university, that team expects him to sign. Coaches have put in months, if not years, of work toward their current verbal commitments. They do not want to spend another second ensuring those players sign. In fact, that has long been one of their biggest annoyances with the recruiting process.

To put it another way, a lot of schools think upward of 80 percent of their recruiting classes will sign in December, with only a few players waiting until February.

The December early signing period is now the big trip to the grocery store, while February’s traditional National Signing Day is going to become the quick stop for a gallon of milk.

Per Rivals, Mizzou currently has 21 committed recruits.

Eighty percent of that is about 16. So consider that the benchmark for tomorrow.

* Jeffcoat evidently told PowerMizzou that he has committed, but he is waiting until his signing ceremony to make it officially official, apparently.

2. Players to watch

One of the 20 guys above who almost certainly won’t sign tomorrow? Vincent Gray. The Michigan cornerback committed back in July around Night at the Zou, but interest from around the country was picking up, and he scored a huge in-state offer on Monday.

The best-case scenario for Mizzou is that Gray eventually circles back around and signs in February after testing the waters. The most likely scenario: he commits to Michigan, and perhaps soon.

So Mizzou could be losing a cornerback commit soon, but the Tigers are hoping to gain another one as well. Eddie Smith, a cornerback from Louisiana, de-committed from TCU following a Mizzou official visit.

Mizzou isn’t the only school now involved with Smith, but there’s a chance that the Tigers basically trade a Midwestern cornerback for one from the South. (They have about the same rating per the 247Sports Composite, too.)

3. The wild card

St. Louis blue-chipper Ronnie Perkins, a top-100 recruit and brother of Mizzou sophomore safety Ronnell, committed to Oklahoma back in October, while the Tigers were still trying to salvage their season.

He made an official visit to Columbia a couple of weeks ago, though, just to be sure of his decision, and while most indications are that he will sign with the Sooners tomorrow ... not all indications point in that direction. If there’s a Big Happy Surprise for Mizzou on Wednesday, it’s that Perkins either flips or elects to wait until February to sign. (But it would still be a surprise.)

UPDATE: 15 minutes after this posted, Perkins removed all doubt.

So yeah, it would be quite the surprise.

4. The big January battle

Michael Thompson, a top-60 recruit from St. Louis Parkway North, visited Columbia the same weekend Perkins did, and by most accounts, he likes the Tigers quite a bit. Maybe he signs somewhere tomorrow — and if he does, that’s probably excellent news for the home-state school — or maybe he waits till February.

Thompson is a good example of the leverage mentioned in the piece above. The blue-chippers still have it. Any blue-chipper who waits till February to sign will likely see renewed attention from quite a few big-name schools once those schools know what they have and know what they still need.

The low- to mid-three-stars who might get more offers down the line but aren’t completely sure? Minimal leverage. If they don’t sign with their committed schools, they’ll likely be treated as de-commitments, and they don’t really have a way of knowing whether that second wave of offers will actually come.

Maybe Thompson is just tired of the recruiting process and elects to sign early. But he doesn’t have to. Others probably do.

5. How many scholarships does Missouri have to give?

Technically? About 19 or 20, depending on whether Drew Lock elects to go pro or not (and whether any current walk-ons end up on scholarship, though that probably won’t happen till summer).

But if you assume a typical level of attrition — and with quite a few juniors- and seniors-to-be sinking down to the third string on the depth chart, you can probably figure that Mizzou will experience just that — it’s safe to say that the Tigers are looking to sign at least 25. And with at least a couple of early enrollees in the mix, that number could technically reach 27-28.